As the baby boomers begin retiring in droves, the general experience levels in almost every organization are set to decline. Sometimes known as the brain drain, or knowledge drain, companies face the very real possibility that critical skills and knowledge could walk out the door along with the retiring employees. To address this problem, the organization must take action in advance of the employees' retirement to facilitate the knowledge transfer. Best practices for the replacement of retiring employees should include provisions to transfer knowledge to the replacement.
Identify the positions within the organization whose incumbents are eligible -- or soon will be eligible -- to retire, and begin the process of active succession planning. Determine career paths within the organization, and identify the potential employees who will take over the duties upon the retirement of the current incumbent. The aim is to promote from within without an identifiable drop in skills, knowledge or production by the time retirement occurs.
Find out when the worker plans to retire and -- if known -- specifically when his last day will be. Develop a recruitment plan based on this time frame.
Ask the retiring employee to cross train others within the department, and task him with developing step-by-step procedure manuals for the various tasks under his purview. Develop a department that has knowledge of the processes and procedures each worker performs, so that the work can continue without interruption upon retirement.
Involve the retiring worker in the recruitment process and hiring decision. If the company values his expertise and how he has performed the role, include him in designing questions for the interview process and in the interview itself.
Appoint the new worker several weeks before the current incumbent retires. Allow for a period of cross training so that the new employee can learn the ropes.
Test the procedure manuals and guides before the retiring employee leaves. Have another worker -- one who is not experienced in the duties -- attempt to perform a task using just the procedure guide. Identify any questions the tester has, mistakes made or gaps in the manual for the retiring staff member to fix.
If you plan to move in a different direction, or you weren't satisfied with the retiring worker's performance, don't involve that employee in the interviewing and decision-making process. Otherwise, you likely will end up with a replacement who is very similar to the retiring worker.
For more than a decade, Tia Benjamin has been writing organizational policies, procedures and management training programs. A C-level executive, she has more than 15 years experience in human resources and management. Benjamin obtained a Bachelor of Science in social psychology from the University of Kent, England, as well as a Master of Business Administration from San Diego State University.